PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - The Archbishop of Philadelphia and his predecessor were accused on Monday in a civil lawsuit of endangering children by concealing the identity and sexual abuse of predatory priests from law enforcement to save the church from a costly scandal.
Among the seven people and three institutions named in the lawsuit filed in Common Pleas Court in Philadelphia were the current Archbishop Cardinal Justin Rigali, his predecessor Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, Monsignor William Lynn, the Rev. Richard Cochrane and Martin Satchell, who has left the priesthood.
“John Doe 10,” an anonymous 28-year-old man who allegedly suffered two periods of abuse by clergymen, filed the lawsuit and is seeking more than $50,000, which would trigger a jury trial. The victim alleges that as a young Catholic school student he was abused during second or third grade and again during his high school freshman year, when he sought counseling about the earlier abuse. The lawsuit names Satchell and Cochrane as his abusers.
The lawsuit accuses the Archdiocese, the sixth largest in the United States with 1.5 million Catholics, of implementing “programs and procedures that were misrepresented to the public as providing help to victims of childhood sexual abuse by clergy, but were instead maliciously used to develop information to protect the Archdiocese.”
The civil suit comes on the heels of a scathing Philadelphia Grand Jury indictment last week that recommends charging Lynn, secretary for the clergy for the Archdiocese under Bevilacqua, with two criminal counts of endangering the welfare of a child. The grand jury also recommended rape and other criminal charges against three priests and a teacher accused of sexually assaulting a 10-year-old boy, none of whom are included in the civil lawsuit.
It was the second grand jury report on allegations of sexual abuse in the Philadelphia clergy, with the first made public in 2005 with no apparent consequence.
“I was shocked when I learned last week that in 2011, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia has done virtually nothing (about child sexual abuse),” said Marci Hamilton, the plaintiff’s lawyer, in a news conference outside Philadelphia City Hall.
The institutions named in the lawsuit include the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, Malvern Preparatory School for Boys and the Order of St. Augustine, which runs the St. Aloysius Academy in Bryn Mawr. Both Bryn Mawr and Malvern are suburbs of Philadelphia.
The other people named in the lawsuit are Archidiocese employees, Karen Becker, director of child and youth protection and Maggie Marshall, victim assistance coordinator.
The Archdiocese said that it had no comment on the lawsuit at this time.
Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Greg McCune